Tolate24

Finally got a forge...but...

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So I went to an open forge with a local blacksmiths guild Thursday night, it was great! I learned more in just a couple hours than I'd learn in a long time alone. One of the guys was even nice enough to give me an old forge he don't use anymore! 

But apparently I missed the day in boy scouts where they taught you fire lighting...or coal is harder to light. After a couple hours of trying various different things the coal hadn't even hardly began to take. I tried dry pine cones and small sticks like lighting a camp fire and surrounded it with coal until it got going then fed the coal to it.

I never was worth a crap at lighting a camp fire either....

Any tips? I'm using anthracite, nut size.

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Anthracite is notoriously hard to light compared to bituminous. I usually start a good sized fire using charcoal and when it's going good and hot, start adding the anthracite to the pile. Anthracite loves air. You won't keep it lit just occasionally blowing on it. You'll want a good constant stream of air blowing on the fire or it will want to go out.

 

If you have soft coal, you can start the fire with that or even coke, then start adding anthracite to that as well. I did that for a while when I didn't have a lot of good bituminous coal, but lots of anthracite.

Edited by DSW

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2 big hand fulls of lump charcoal along with one 1" cube of waxy charcoal starter in the middle of the forge with constant air flow, with regular coal around the outside of that.  when the charcoal starts to pop and spark cover it with coal and increase the air flow.  Your mileage may vary.

 

Russell

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It also burns very hot and oxidizing. Helps a lot starting if the initial anthracite is nut size, and it also has a tendency to pop sometimes and toss small bits out of the fire when just added. Watch out, and good luck.

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tolate, when you get back down here i will get you a bag of bituminus to mix with the bag of anthrosite.  then i we can go over starting a forge.  didn't even think about that because the forges where already going.  

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I just got it up and going. Took a long time but it burned hot and I messed around with some scrap for a bit. I think I got it figured out now. I had a pretty good fire going then loaded it up. 

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I'm currently forging with nut-sized anthracite, and yes, it's harder to light. This is what I've been doing:

(BTW, you don't say what your forge and air supply are, but I'm going to assume that you're using some kind of mechanical blower; I use a shop vac set on BLOW). 

In the middle of your firepot, place a wadded ball of newspaper, and cover with thin pieces of dry softwood (no bigger than a pencil). Light. When the wood starts to burn, add a handful or two of lump charcoal and turn on your air. As the charcoal begins to burn, cover the whole fire with a layer of coal and give it a chance to get burning strongly. Once the fire stops sending out a lot of sparks (aka "fire fleas"), the wood and charcoal will have burned away, and you will be burning straight coal. 

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A class I took a # of yrs. ago  the instructor had us starting the fire with shavings from the boat shop next door that had set in a covered can with paint thinner spread on them over night and then put down in the firepot covered with partially burned coal from the day before.  Still works for me but had to get a plane to make my own shavings after a friend closed his woodworking shop!  People come in the shop and see the boards, shavings and the plane and they ask if I do wood working as well, they look confused when I tell them only to start my fire. 

Edited by notownkid

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A shop vac is WAY too much air, it'll literally blow the fire and heat right through out of the pile before it can light. Unless you're burning a pile made with a couple wheel barrows in your forge. Just my had crank Champ 400 will blow WAY too hard to light coal, starting I give it maybe 1/4 turn per second. MAYBE.

Get a blow drier, turn the heat element OFF or remove it and you have more than enough air for even an anthracite fire. I used to heat with anthracite and it lit easily enough with a small kindling fire or coil of cardboard and natural draft in the stove. Seriously just more than a breath of air till it gets going.

The secret to getting coal burning is go SLOW. Lighting kindling and blasting it hard only blows the heat and fire through the pile. Maybe for the look of a big roaring fire but not much good for forging with.

Frosty The Lucky.

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To clarify: the outlet of the shop vac and the air inlet of the tuyere are not lined up.  Less than 1/4 of the output goes into the fire; the rest blows past to cool off the smith.

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to clarify...my way of saying I want to complicate this subject; I used hard coal for awhile. It was what I began my career with. It was not pretty,

Secondly, there is a local stove shop manufacturing indoor coal stoves. They have this fire pot and a hopper inside to feed fuel. They employ hard coal. There is no blower to feed air and..AND......the stove literally shuts down when you turn down the air feed and magically restarts once more all on its own when you turn the air back on via the bimetallic thermostat.

Somebody explain how that functions but burning hard coal in a forge is tough.

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It took a bit of practice but I got it after 2 attempts. I finally got it with a fire that looked like it should be in front of a tent with me roasting marshmallows instead of heating metal haha. It was kind of comical I should have taken pictures, but hey whatever works...

I am using a hand crank blower I should have clarified that in the first place.

I do like the wood shavings and paint thinner idea, my dad is sort of a carpenter. Thanks notownkid. 

Also I think a large part of my trouble was not a deep enough fire. I'm going to try putting fire bricks around it so I can put a bit more coal in it this time.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions and your time. Hopefully I'll have some nice forged items to show you all soon.

 

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First post here.

 

Registered just to say thanks for this thread! I was also using a shopvac on blow and couldn't figure out how I kept screwing up the heat.    

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to clarify...my way of saying I want to complicate this subject; I used hard coal for awhile. It was what I began my career with. It was not pretty,

Secondly, there is a local stove shop manufacturing indoor coal stoves. They have this fire pot and a hopper inside to feed fuel. They employ hard coal. There is no blower to feed air and..AND......the stove literally shuts down when you turn down the air feed and magically restarts once more all on its own when you turn the air back on via the bimetallic thermostat.

Somebody explain how that functions but burning hard coal in a forge is tough.

I don't know how their stove works but I'd do it with a turbine in the flue to drive a fuel feed screw. Closing the draft shuts down the air flow stopping the fuel feed, open it up, air flows and fuel feeds. The fuel would feed in a direct ratio of how much air flows so it'd auto regulate. You'd have to tune it for specific fuels but that'd be pretty straight forward.

I didn't have trouble burning anthracite in my Buffalo rivet forge nor the electrically blown one it's just much more hassle that propane. If I want close control I have an oxy propane torch.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Coal stoves historicaly used grates to get the fuel up so you could feed air in under it. The hot exaust rising up the chimney draws enugh air in to get it to burn. When regulating an old stove (i have this cute little "20's" job) you can back the bottom draft off and it will still draw enugh to stay lit but not radiate much heat (as long as you dont close the flue damper all the way down) once you oppen the bottom draft, assuming their is fuel left she comes back to life. 

She certainly has a diferent personality than a wood stove, of wich you do not want a grate or a bottom draft. It is near imposible to "bank" a fire in a woodstove with a grate and bottom air. 

Tho she is content eating wood (you have to cut 16" stove lengths in half) you have to feed her coal to put her to bed for the night 

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